Every once in a while, life gets the better of you.
The little struggles, and sometimes the big ones, just get to be more than you can contain. The hurt or resentment or sadness bubbles out, leaking through the tight wrapping we all keep on our lives.
And, it is usually little things that cause it — the literal straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Maybe you were cut off in traffic, or your weekend plans got blown. Perhaps the kids left their lunchbox at school, or your spouse ate the last piece of chocolate you were saving for yourself.
None of these things, on their own, are tragic or terrible or life threatening. There is no danger. It’s just an aggravation. But, when coupled with other stresses, it can be enough. Suddenly, the weight of the baggage you’re carrying around with you — that we ALL carry around with us — shifts loose, falls out of your hands, and spills out all over. And how do you feel when that happens? More angry, more frustrated, and, yes, a little embarrassed. Maybe even hurt.
And that’s when it jumps out… in your anger and frustration, you try and push back at the world, hitting whatever target is closest to you.
Social Media memes abound about how everyone is struggling with something. Everyone is fighting a battle you don’t see. The battle they keep hidden inside themselves, that they fight alone. But what do you do when you, not someone else, loses the battle that day? Or, when you are that battle’s casualty and get unloaded on.
Sometimes Sh!t Happens
It’s rough when your baggage spills out. I’m sure anyone who travels has seen it at some point — a person’s in baggage check, has fifty things in their hands, and the suitcase goes over the edge.
You can see it in your mind in slow motion, simply waiting for the inevitable conclusion.
The case hits and everything inside dumps on the floor. Suddenly, this person is trying to hold their shit together while using the other hand to sweep their underwear up off a stranger’s shoes.
“I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” they cry, as the fallen struggles to hold themselves together, digging deep to maintain that last shred of identity they have inside.
A lot of the time, people keep going about their business, glancing down at that poor overworked soul from their cell phones, silently judging the shame of someone who couldn’t keep their life together. Never realizing that it’s really only chance that’s saved them from the same fate.
Sometimes a person will stop to help — greeted with grateful thank you as they help to put their life back in its case. Other times, the person needing it is too ashamed and rejects that help — “No! I’ve got it!” And so the helper backs off, confused, possibly even a little hurt themselves by the rejection.
And the shame of it all multiplies.
Bag back together, the traveler buckles down to continue their journey — thinking about the entire episode over the next few days. The walkers continue on, oblivious, secretly hoping it never happens to them, afraid that it might. And the failed helper nurses a feeling they don’t understand and tries to put themselves in the other traveler’s shoes.
One event, three hurts.
Is It All Too Much?
It’s kinda rare that someone’s baggage actually spills out on the floor. Much more common is the emotional baggage. The life baggage.
What happens when that falls?
Usually, it’s quickly followed by the sharp remark, the hurtful phrase, the lashing out. Sometimes it’s the opposite: the full retreat, the closing down. I’m not talking about abuse here — I’m talking about the human reaction to the very increasing phenomenon of modern life. The visible result of overload.
The reality is, not only are many Americans under a tremendous amount of stress, they are increasingly aware of the humongous amount of emotional and life baggage they are carrying. And, our culture really doesn’t prepare people for that. We aren’t taught how to manage, control, and deal with our ever growing stress, much less how to do so while carrying all we have to carry. Even those who have found a way to do so slip sometimes. Or, their method of control is causing stress of it’s own — drinking, binge eating, video games, or exercise to the point of exhaustion to name a few.
Financial stress. Emotional stress. Feeling put upon. Feeling like a sucker. Feeling abandoned. Feeling inadequate. Feeling overwhelemd. Feeling angry. Feeling ashamed. Feeling afraid. Feeling like a failure. Feeling loss.
Seems we are all dealing with these things — and more — at some point in our lives. Heck, in our week. However, it’s rare that we are all trying to contain a spillover at the same time.
So, when you see someone on the edge lash out, try not to take it too personally. It’s likely they are not upset at you. Instead, try and reach out and just say “hey, what’s going on?” Show some empathy — because I’ll bet a dollar you’ve been there yourself, feeling angry or frustrated as life overwhelms you.
What Can We Do?
I don’t know why so many today are hurting the way they are. People blame the economy, social media, lifestyle, commute, competition, keeping up with the Joneses, or overall uncertainty. Maybe it’s deeper than that — troubled childhood, missed opportunity, sick child or spouse. Job stress, lack of fulfillment, hopelessness. But, the reality is, many are carrying more stress than ever before.
As we see our pathetic politicians on both sides, the future doesn’t seem as sunny as it once did. Driving by the homeless vets on the roadside, our victories seem a little hollow. As we come back from a Sunday at the park with our spouse or kids, the news tells us another child molester was picked up in town, and you hold your children a little closer that night, fearful of what could happen.
Has the world changed, or were we always Polly-Annas? Is it actually darker, or just daylight savings time? Did the electric bill go up from last year, or is it our imagination?
Are we going to be OK?
I don’t know. I wish I did, I’d probably sleep better at night.
I do know, that I don’t want to live like I’m broken. Or afraid. Or any of those things. Not because I don’t feel that way sometimes, but because I refuse to feel that way all of the time.
Yeah, life can be a little too much every now and then. We’ve all been there. The poor and the rich alike, makes no difference. We all have our battles, our turmoil, our baggage. All of us.
Maybe — just maybe — we should stand together a little more. And when it gets too much and someone snaps, try not to be offended. Just try and be understanding. Sure, you don’t know exactly what it was that beat them today, but you do know that you might need their help tomorrow. So reach out, say “hey”.
Maybe you can help, maybe you can’t, but you can try.